The sport of climbing and cinema go back a long way and there are dozens of great films to see, both from Hollywood and from climbers themselves.
The Hollywood climbing films range from sorta realistic to the absurd to downright cheesy. And the library of classic real climbing films is big.
Below are 25 films that will make for good Oscar weekend binge watching.
Best Real Rock Climbing Movies
These films are about technical rock climbing. There are many other great films that focus on mountaineering.
El Capitan (1978): One of the best old-school real climbing movies. It documents an ascent of the Nose in 1968, the back when climbers carried only pitons for protection and wore corduroy knickers and swami belts instead of harnesses.
Rampage (1999): The classic American bouldering movie that helped launch the bouldering revolution. Follow Chris Sharma, Obe Carrion and friends on a two month road trip across the west. Features Castle Rock, LakeTahoe, Priest Draw, Black Mountain, The Tramway, Squamish, Humboldt and The X-Games.
Beyond Gravity (2000): An incredible portrait of climbing in the new century, it follows many of the world’s top climbers in their own disciplines. From Lynn Hill and Nancy Feagin climbing hard sport routes to Barry Blanchard, Steve House, and Joe Josephson pushing the limits of aplinism on the Emperor Face of Mount Robinson.
Return2Sender (2005): Timmy O’Neill hosts one of the most fun climbing movies ever, featuring a young crusher and free-soloing.
First Ascent (2006): Didier Berthod guns for the first ascent of Cobra Crack and other notable first ascents. Footage from Himalayas, Thailand and Yosemite.
Psyche (2008): Andy Kirkpatrick and Ian Parnell’s attempt at making the first winter ascent of Torre Egger in Patagonia, which is hilarious at times. Also features Steve McClure and Dave Birkett.
King Lines (2007): Chris Sharma climbs goes full Sharma on hard routes around the world. It all ends with the first ascent of El Pontas 5.15 in Spain and that epic dyno.
Asgard Jamming (2009): This is the brilliant film from Belgian climbing heroes Nico Favresse and Sean Villanueva and team on their 2009 Baffin Island expedition to Mount Asgard. Laughs and whippers!
Reel Rock 7 (2012): We see Alex Honnold’s Half Dome free-solo, are introduced to the Wide Boyz and Adam Ondra climbs first-ever 5.15c.
Reel Rock 8 (2013): A young Hazel Findlay sends hard trad routes, Daniel Woods climbs boulder and we see the fight between Simone Moro, Ueli Steck and a group of Sherpas.
Snowball Chance in Hell (2013): David Lama guns for the first free ascent of the Compressor Route on Cerro Torre as drama unfolds in Patagonia.
Valley Uprising (2014): Highlights from the past 60 years of Yosemite climbing, from the first routes up El Cap to recent speed solos, it has it all.
Meru (2015): A documentary film chronicling the first ascent of the Shark’s Fin route on Meru Peak in the Indian Himalayas by Jimmy Chin, Conrad Anker and Renan Ozturk.
Boys in the Bugs (2016): Will Stanhope and Matt Segal aim to climb one of the hardest alpine cracks in the world. Stanhope comes out on top. A must see.
Free Solo (2018): The Oscar-winning documentary about Alex Honnold’s first free-solo of El Capitan via Freerider 5.13 is a must-see climbing film for climbers and non-climbers alike.
Dawn Wall (2018): The film about the first ascent of Dawn Wall 5.14d by Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson is one of the best climbing films ever made.
Silence (2018): Well, 2018 was one of the biggest years ever for climbing films and it wouldn’t have been complete without Silence. The film focuses on Adam Ondra’s first ascent of Silence 5.15d. Watch below.
Best/Worst Hollywood Climbing Films
Here’s a list of some of the best/worst climbing films that have come out of Hollywood. You can decide what’s what, but they’re all worth at least one watch.
The Eiger Sanction (1975): Clint Eastwood plays a retired assassin who performs his own stunts. Canadian Chic Scott was on hand as a technical adviser. There’s footage from the Swiss Alps to the desert towers of Utah.
Cliffhanger (1993): Sylvester Stallone solos big walls as he battles an evil John Lithgow. This is a classic 1990s action move with guns and wilderness survival, sort of.
Nordwand (2010): A German-made film about the true story of Toni Kurz and Andi Hinterstoisser’s attempt at the famed Eiger north face. Amazing cinematography and old-school real climbing. Great historical narrative, footage and gripping drama.
K2 (1991): Two young Seattle climbers join an expedition to K2. In the end is one of the most dramatic climbing-themed final scenes ever. A must see.
Touching the Void (2004): Joe Simpson’s survival story after breaking his leg and falling into a crevasse on Siula Grande in the Peruvian Alps. You might have read the book, now see the film.
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989): Not a climbing film, but Captain Kirk climbs El Cap without a rope (channeling his 2018 Alex Honnold) and drops some cheesy one liners.
Everest (2015): An adaptation from Beck Weathers’ memoir Left for Dead: My Journey Home from Everest. Not the worst climbing film, not the best either.
Screams of Stone (1991): A classic Werner Herzog film about obsession. Donald Sutherland stars as Ivan, a journalist and climber, Roccia is a professional climber and Martin is a champion indoor climber. The movie has elements drawn from the history of the supposed first ascent of Cerro Torre in 1959 by the Italian climber Cesare Maestri and his partner, the Austrian Toni Egger, who died during the descent. Watch the full film below.
After this story was first published, Pretty Strong hit the screens and is film number 26. It’s an amazing movie that follows some of the world’s top women as they project and send hard routes. Don’t miss it!